Author Archives: Margot

October 7, 2009

Trauma up the back paddock

The day starts as normal

We set off pretty early on our planned day’s activity: Chris clearing scrub on the dozer, me poisoning some regrowth. I did my own thing on the quad bike and we agreed to meet for morning tea at the dozer.

I was working away, lost in my thoughts when he turned up unexpectedly in the car and talked to me through the window, “I found a dead cow at the dam. She was stuck in the mud. There was another old girl stuck as well. I pulled her out but she didn’t get up. Don’t know how she’ll go.”

It was bad news, the impact of the drought. The shrinking dams were turning into death traps with too much exposed mud. It wasn’t a good start to the day. Chris set off to check all the dams.

The Recovery

My work done, I fired up the quad to meet Chris as arranged. As I reached the dozer, I saw him approaching unexpectedly on foot from the opposite direction. I wondered where the car was.

“I got dry-bogged.” He informed me. “I’ll have to get the dozer down there to pull it out.” He had walked a long way from the car with no water. It was fortunate we arrived at the dozer at the same time.

The recovery operation swung into gear when we got to the bog site.

The Patrol’s right wheels were almost buried in the dust and she was leaning rather alarmingly. It’d faltered trying to pull the trailer up a steep bank, coming out of the gully. The trailer was jack knifing behind at an awkward angle.

“You’ll have to steer the car,” Chris said. I could feel my heart racing in my chest immediately.

With the snatchy strap in place I opened the driver’s door gingerly, hoping that wouldn’t tip it over. It was awkward to climb in but I managed. With the dozer purring, Chris inched forward to take up the slack on the snatchy. He gently tugged the car with the dozer. But instead of the car moving forward, it sunk further on it’s lean to the right! Chris stopped immediately.

I was panicking now, my hands trembling and my chest in pain. I didn’t want to be in that car if it rolled over! We got out and circled the situation again – inspected and re-inspected the predicament. It took a bit of doing but we managed to unhook the trailer.

Its moments like these I hate living in the bush – facing harsh realities with no one around to help. You have to rely on your own ingenuity – ingenuity I don’t feel confident I have. But you can’t walk away either though I wanted to just ride home and have a cup of tea. We had to get the car and trailer out and Chris needed my help to do it. I had to dig deep.

I faced my worst fear – the car might roll over. What would happen to me if it did? Probably not much as it would just stop on its side. I climbed back into the car and wound up the window. At least it would provide some meager protection. The seatbelt was locked due to the lean so I couldn’t put it on. I couldn’t really say I was calmer but I was determined.

We tried again with Chris pulling from a different angle. I worked hard to keep those wheels turned in the right direction. My heart was in my mouth. Success! Now that it was no longer weighed down by the trailer, the dozer was able to gently drag the car to firmer ground without tipping it over. Phew!

I feel sick in the tummy just thinking about it even now.

By the time we had pulled out the trailer as well, re-hooked it to the Patrol, and driven them to surer ground, our day was over. I felt rather exhausted. It was good to get home and have a glass of wine. You just never know how your day will turn out when you are out in the bush!

September 29, 2009

From Drought to a Bog

A planned day out to finish off a fence way up the back, came to an abrupt halt.



We unhooked the trailer and Chris managed to drive the car out. He moved it to solid ground (or so he thought) in a different position. He wanted to have a go at pulling the trailer out. It didn’t go so well…

The chassis was sitting on the ground. So what did we do? We had morning tea of course…

Then we brought out the big guns.

But that didn’t work so well either…

We finally succeeded but we did leave a big mess…

And so we spend lots of time in the house waiting for it to dry out…

September 29, 2009

We lost one of our bulls

A tragic loss

This week we had to bring in the main herd. Despite our feeding regime, some of them are looking poorly – especially those feeding bigger calves. It’s an opportunity to do a bit of stock take, look over them all and to wean the bigger calves.

We set off reasonably early and checked each paddock, gathering them together. We were about 500 yards from the gate to the laneway when I came upon one of the bulls, Investigator. He was down.  He didn’t look very well. His eyes were bulging a little and his tongue was hanging out inelegantly to one side. His legs stuck out in front of him like four pins. They looked a little stiff and awkward. Our other bull, Injector, was circling him. Injector nudged Investigator’s back, trying to push him to his feet. It was distressing to watch. My throat felt choked up.

I pulled up on the quad and called Chris on the two way radio. We decided to finish mustering the herd into the laneway so we could go back to assist Investigator.

We invest a lot of money in our bulls. You need to put a good bull over your cows if you want to breed prime beef. They are quite majestic beasts weighing in around 600 kilos (or more). They have a presence of their own. You can only really muster them because they want to stick around with the cows. On their own they’ll just stand and look at you and not move no matter how much you beep the horn and yell.

Investigator wasn’t looking very majestic today.

It was probably about 10 minutes later we came back to see what we could do to get him back on this feet.

When we got there, he was stone cold dead. Just like that, gone.

Injector was still circling and nudging his mate. We had to wait for him to move away before we could get a closer look. He hadn’t put up much of a fight. We’ve had cows go down before and they usually thrash about. Investigator hadn’t thrashed about. We went through the possibilities.

Why did he die?

Had he starved? No, he wasn’t looking poorly with his huge gird sticking up from the ground. That couldn’t be it.

Had he been overworked? We are short one bull. You normally have about 1 bull to 30-40 cows. We had two bulls with about 130 cows. But if he had been overworked you would think he would have been looking poorly. That couldn’t be it.

Had he eaten something poisonous? We don’t know of any poisonous feed on our property and he didn’t seem to have gone through a struggle. He had basically just dropped dead. But I guess it’s possible.

Had he been bitten by a snake? The snakes are mean this time of year. This thought freaked me out a bit. If a snake bite can drop a beast this size, what could it do to me? (I’ve been looking out so carefully since then.) I guess a snake bite is possible. But why did it have to bite our bull!

Well I guess we will never know for sure. But it was a very sad day.

An Aside

While Investigator was down on the ground I was able to inspect him closely – more closely than you ever could if he was on his feet. I was intrigued to notice that he had a couple of nipples at the top of his scrotum. Apparently this is normal. I guess guys have nipples that don’t serve any specific purpose, but I hadn’t considered bulls had them as well. They were funny looking things. They didn’t really look like they belonged.

You learn something new everyday on the farm.

September 19, 2009

The Adjustment Continues

What am I good at now?

Instead of persuading executives and coworkers to change their perceptions and work differently, I’m now pretty good at persuading cattle to go where I want them.

I’m great at zooming around the countryside on the Quad bike and love it. There isn’t a creek I can’t cross (though I might have to search for a bit to find a place I’m prepared to tackle). Even the hills are easier on my new quad bike.

I’ve also learnt to read the cattle and understand where I need to position myself to get them to move in the right direction. I’m more alert when one is about to charge off in the wrong direction. I can anticipate them somewhat. I also know the naughty ones by sight.

When we first started, the cows would always bunch up in the corner as we struggled to get them moving through yards. Now, somehow our expectations have changed so that doesn’t really happen. There is only the odd recalcitrant that needs a sterner voice.

I can work a fence line confidently. I have a set of tasks that are well within my capability, so no more standing around waiting for something to do or just watching. It is great exercise and very satisfying to look back along the fence as it is erected. I’m even good a sighting in the posts – a very responsible job. The fence just has to be dead straight!

What am I still working on?

I still don’t like being in the yards with the Brahmans. They charge and snort at you. I don’t like them. They make me nervous.

Coping with the isolation is ongoing but the internet helps a lot as do frequent visits to town.

My tennis game is still sadly lacking. The district has a monthly tennis day. It is a great social event and has really helped us integrate. They all love a drink, well lots of drinks actually, so they are always memorable events. I just wish I could hit the ball into the right place a little more frequently.

The anxiety when we are waiting for rain is tiring. It is such a relief when it does rain but the waiting is frustrating and saps your energy. We seem to be waiting a lot.

Baby Piglets

We were out mustering the other day and came across a family of wild pigs. The sow had a big litter – about 12. Chris ran them down and managed to catch three. We brought them home on the bike. They are so cute. We called them Greasy, Pork and Chop. This is to make sure we don’t get too attached to them before we eat them. We will grow them out for about six months. They are getting fatter already. So we have pigs as well as cows to look after now.

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